Thinking Outside The Ornament Box!


I love a challenge!  Don’t you? Well, the good people at Michael’s recently gave me the challenge to create a Holiday Dream Tree. The only requirement was that I had to use products from their store…but the rest was completely up to me!  How could I not accept a challenge like that???

So I got to thinking about this “Dream Tree” and a million ideas began to pop into my head. But I had to focus! (Which is not easy for me!) So I narrowed the “dream” down to three things I really wanted to do with this tree. I wanted it to be BEAUTIFUL, I wanted it to be CREATIVE and I wanted it to be AFFORDABLE.

Since Michael’s had generously provided a $500.00 gift card for this project I realized I had a problem. I couldn’t possibly spend $500.00 on ONE 6-foot tree! Maybe FIVE trees…but not one. Problem was I didn’t have time to decorate FIVE trees! What to do!???

Well, with the help of my daughter, Britta Marie, we came up with the Jillee Holiday Dream Tree Challenge:  Create 3 different holiday tree themes with a budget of $100.00 each. Then the remaining $200.00 will be given away in a random drawing so one of YOU can then go and create your OWN Dream Tree! How does THAT sound? :-)

Today I am going to give you a “sneak peek” of some of the ideas I have been working on for the trees….then Wednesday will be the final reveal and I’ll announce how to enter to win the $200.00 from Michael’s to design your OWN Dream Tree! So exciting. :-)

One of the things I tried to do with this challenge was to think outside of the tree ornament BOX….so to speak. I did buy a good portion of the items for the trees from the Christmas decoration aisles of Michael’s, but I also wandered around all the OTHER sections of the store looking for inspiration as well!  It’s a lot of fun…try it sometime! :-)

Here are some “out of the box” ideas I came up with:

Cookie Cutters as Ornaments

This one couldn’t be any easier. I found these red and white cookie cutters in the shape of stars, snowflakes and candy canes in the baking section of Michael’s. They are darling all by themselves, but add the red and white twine and you have a super easy, super cute ornament for Tree #3. (That’s all the hint you get for now.)


dream tree challenge


Gift Boxes As Ornaments

Also found in the baking section of Michael’s….these red treat boxes from Martha Stewart Crafts. A few folds, a piece of ribbon (included) and some twine to hang…and you have another adorable ornament for Tree #3. (It might be fun to actually put something in them too. Didn’t think of that until now though.) :-)


dream tree challenge


Tricky Tree Topper

For Tree #1 I needed a tree topper that wasn’t too “fancy”. It seems like all the toppers you see in the stores are fairly ornate. So I took two metal star ornaments and hot glued them together for my DIY 3-D Topper! I aligned the two original holes where the wire hangers were and put a piece of wire through both holes. Then I just wrapped the wire around the top branch of the tree. Worked like a charm! Tree #1 now doesn’t have to go Topper-less!


dream tree challenge


Whimsical Wood Ornaments

Michael’s has about every unfinished wood shape you can imagine! I found these cute gift tag and button shapes in the wood crafts aisle for about .50 cents each. I also picked up these small bottles of holiday colors acrylic paint. Each shape took me roughly 30 seconds to paint and they dried within minutes! Then I just used some more twine as a hanger and look how cute they turned out! Perfect for Tree #2.


dream tree challenge


Tiny Terra Cotta – Two Ways

As I wandered the floral crafts section of the store I spied these darling little terra cotta pots. I couldn’t resist, I grabbed 10 of them. I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to DO with them…but they were just too cute to pass up. Well, it didn’t take me long to come up with a COUPLE of ideas for these adorable little pots. In the same section of the store they had all sorts of different wire for arranging flowers. I decided to wire a simple hanger for each pot and then fill them with some holiday scented potpourri!  Now Tree #1 will SMELL good as well as LOOK good.


dream tree challenge


For Tree #2 I had a slightly different idea for the same hanging pots. I found these little battery-operated tea lights and thought they would look pretty “burning” in the little pots while hanging on the tree. I absolutely LOVE how they turned out!  The light is so soft and warm coming from inside the tiny pots.  The little tea lights even “flicker”. I found myself spellbound for a few minutes when I first hung them up. :-)


dream tree challenge


DIY Ribbon Topper

I had another tree-topper dilemma for Tree #3. I just couldn’t find anything that would work. So taking a cue from the pre-made bows that Michael’s carries in their floral section, I decided to make my own ribbon topper. After examining one in the store, I realized all I needed to do was make several large loops of ribbon and secure them in the middle with some pipe cleaner (or floral wire would work too), then FLUFF! I love how it looks on top of the tree.


dream tree challenge


Pretty Bows

I have always made bows to put on my Christmas tree. I just love the look. And they are so simple to make…especially with the WIRED ribbon . Just pretend you are tying your shoes or tying your apron strings! Michael’s had a dizzying array of wired ribbon to choose from.  Every color, design, width you could possibly think of!  I ended up buying about 10 different rolls in total. I figure what I don’t use on the tree I will use wrapping gifts. :-)


dream tree challenge


Cupcake Wrapper Garland

This was so simple it’s almost ridiculous. Once again, I was taken in by the adorable factor and couldn’t resist these mini polka dot cupcake wrappers, which I made a cute little garland out of using that oh-so-versatile red and white twine. So perfect for Tree #3. (Is your curiosity piqued yet? I hope so!)


dream tree challenge


Burlap Garland

Another even SIMPLER garland idea…this one from the floral section again. A simple roll of burlap used in floral arranging makes a great rustic-looking garland for Tree #1. (oops…too much information!)


dream tree challenge

Au Naturel Ornaments

And finally, I grabbed several of these plain paper mache shapes from the paper craft section of the store and didn’t do a THING to them. I thought they looked nice just the way they are against the green branches. Perfect for Tree #1.

dream tree challenge


Hopefully one or more of these ideas will help spark some additional ideas for you and YOUR tree this year!  I can’t wait to show you the trees all decked out on Wednesday! Be sure and come back for the big reveal and GIFT CARD GIVEAWAY!


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  1. Pam says

    $500?!? Seriously…gasp! I love The cupcake garland, star tree topper & tea lights. Don’t actually enjoy doing a big tree anymore since no one left to help (married daughter, disinterested hubby, lazy son ;-). But I like to do several smaller trees. A fancy one for the presents to go beneath, a children’s tree which I will do your star topper on this year and outdoor woodsy one with burlap garland. & I have long wanted to do a kitchen themed tree with old cookie cutter & utensils. The cupcake wrapper garland would be perfect & putting the tea lights in china tea cups would be pretty for the lights.!

    • Martha says

      Love the cookie cutter idea for a kitchen tree! I did a small one for the kitchen one year and loved it! I’m off to look for small cookie cutters to do another one this year! Thanks for the idea!

  2. Lillian says

    I was thinking you could put the LED candles into the treat boxes, but then scrolled down and saw them in the pots (very cute). Of course that’s not to say you still couldn’t do that, but with that nice window there on the box, that’s what I thought of.

  3. Marilyn says

    My Fav tree ever was ones I sent to my twin daughters foor their first Christmas. Both got married young and little money. I made cookie ornaments made with home made playdough. Used the cookie cuter that have detail made in to the pastic..Used a straw to cut out a hole for threading ribbon through. Baked these and when dry finished them with orange shelac, Gives them a “baked” cookie look. I bought small styrophome Ball threading same ribbon through them by making a whole through them with a knitting needle and securing it with a glue gun. i then cut small squares of various ribbons and cloth and glued them on the balls with white glue. When dry they have a patchwork quilt look. Thet too were finished off with shellac. Gives them an aged, antique look. I used pinecones and made Santa elves with small styrophome balls for heads, pipe cleaners for arms and legs, and cut mitts for hands and poity toed shoes and elves cap out of felt and attached with glue gun and trimmed with glued on sparkle. Paper loop garland…like the kind kids make in school..and a large tin fil star adored with sparle….finished off this tree. Very old fashioned looking..minimal cost and all things children can help make. Wish I had a pic. These are lovely trees!

    • Lillian says

      When my husband and I got together we were very short on cash because I was unemployed. This was in ’09 when the economy was really hitting the crapper, and we had three kids between us. It took me till spring to find work.

      Meanwhile, we wanted a tree that was really “us,” not stuff hung over from our first marriages. Since I had lots of time, I made a lot of them. We collected tons of pine cones; the white pine, I painted the tips gold; scotch pine, I flat-out dipped straight into light green paint; tiny little white spruce, I edged with glitter and glued them together into clusters. Filled in the tree with a few inexpensive ornaments – you could get flat plastic snowflakes that were surprisingly pretty for a dollar or two a dozen – and strings of popcorn, and problem solved. It was more rustic than intended – I wanted kitschy – but we loved it.

      Earlier in life, I had a problem when married to my first husband; we’d just been given a bigger tree and needed more ornaments, but were broke broke broke. So I went with less than $10 to scout out the Dollar Tree. Wound up buying stems of silk poinsettia – there are 7-8 blooms per stem, and they take up a good bit of space and look GORGEOUS. You just cut them, leaving the stem part on, and stick the stem part into the tree – they stay perfectly well and don’t even need twisting around the branches.

  4. CTY says

    Thanks for the inspiration. The sneak peeks have me intrigued. I never really felt that a store bought, glitzy, over coordinated tree fit my house. Love an uncomplicated tree. Besides we prefer to spend our time, money & energy on the food!
    Thank you again–I think your site helps keep life real.

  5. Comet says

    Did the fabulous red-n-white twine come from Michaels too?

    Those tea lights can go about forever–we used them for pumpkins and some were still going–and had never been shut OFF—two WEEKS after we carved the pumpkins! In the rain and snow and ooozy pumpkins! And—my grandaughter took some out of the package and lined them up on my headboard one day—and left them ON. Nice pretty soft (romantic!) lights!

    Very cute n clever! Can’t wait!!!!

  6. maureen says

    Love the red and white twine! Might have to pick up some of that- I can think of a million and two uses for it. I also liked the star tree topper. Very clever gluing the 2 together like that!!
    My kids liked to take styrofoam balls and decoupage scraps of fabric onto them. Very simple and colorful.

  7. Landon says

    I have 7 foot slim tree that I love to do up in a snowman, snow sport type theme. That burlap garland is a great idea & would be a simple filler for those holes in the tree that are always inevitable. Thanks for the idea. You’ve got some great ideas there. Can’t wait to see your finished trees. Great challenge. =)

  8. says

    You are such a smartie! It would be fun to put some small gifties in those hanging box ornaments — cute cupcake papers or a cookie cutter or a chocolate treat. Love the battery operated candles on the tree. Really love that idea! And burlap…I’m a country/rustic Christmas person so that very much appeals to me. Yes, you’ve started the inspiration train!

  9. Jenny says

    What great and helpful ideas. I have a 15 month old and we aren’t going to do any glass ornaments this year. I have been making felt ornaments which are very cute but a little time consuming. I might have to head to Michaels.

  10. Shawn Woodell says

    I love the red and white twine idea. I will definitely have to pick some up. Can’t wait to see all three trees! They all sound like they will be spectacular. All of your ideas usually are! Love your site!

  11. Mary says

    Another garland idea is to take rustic twine, and tie strips of gingham or burlap on it in intervals. I Pre cut the fabric stips into 1″ x 2/3 ” strips. Or you can use a vintage or rustic looking ribbon.

  12. Bethany Hopkins says

    I love all these ideas! I can’t wait until I have a space of my own big enough to put up a Christmas tree and use some of these ideas. Jillee I love your blog and all the good ideas that you share with us.

  13. Kelly says

    Love your ideas!! The cupcake tree is perfect for my friends daughter who loves making cupcakes and that it such a simple and inexpensive way to decorate. For me, I just might “steal” your candle jar idea….love candles and lights twinkling on the tree. thanks

  14. Carol R says

    I can’t wait to see the one with the paper mache ornaments. I am decorating a small tree for my scrapbook store to auction off. I was thinking all kraft ornaments so I can’t wait to see what you did.

  15. Susan says

    Such wonderful ideas… but the link has ERRORS as I try to click on it!

    LOVE the terra cotta pots. And I would send the gift card to my newly married daughter. They are not having a tree for their first Christmas as they can’t afford it….college student and all……

  16. Comet says

    Went to Michaels and they claim they have never seen the pretty TWINE!!!!

    Share Jillee!!!!


    However you have created an addict! My HUSBAND is in LOVE with Micheals!!!!!!! LOL!!!!!!!


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